Beyond Reinforcement Learning in Worms and Birds


Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - 11:00 to 12:00


B250, Centre Building


Biological Physics Theory Unit (Stephens unit) would like to invite you to a seminar by Prof. Ilya Nemenman from Emory University.



Prof. Ilya Nemenman

Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA 



Beyond Reinforcement Learning in Worms and Birds



Reinforcement learning has been the standard paradigm for modeling sensorimotor adaptation and classical conditioning in animal studies. However, I will argue that traditional reinforcement learning is incapable of explaining two classes of experiments. First, in sensorimotor learning, the motor correction is often dependent on the error nonlinearly (a specific example is that of a songbird compensating for an experimental perturbation to the pitch of the produced song). Second, extinguishing of associations sometimes shows oscillatory dynamics not predicted by reinforcement models (here a specific example is the food-temperature association in a roundworm). I will show that extensions of traditional models to probabilistic Bayesian filtering and to multi-objective reinforcement (both with multiple time scales) account for these diverse experimental data. Further, I will discuss how such models of learning are implemented in real animals.



Ilya Nemenman started his education in Theoretical Physics at the Belarusian State University in Minsk, Belarus. He got his BS in Physics from Santa Clara University in California, and PhD in Physics from Princeton University, focusing on quantification of learning using information-theoretic and statistical physics methods. He was a postdoc at the NEC Research Institute and then at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara. Later he was a research scientist at the Columbia University Medical Center / Joint Centers for Systems Biology and then at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined Emory University in 2009, where he is now a Professor of Physics and Biology and a Director of the Initiative in Theory and Modeling of Living Systems. Prof. Nemenmans group focuses on characterization of information processing (including learning and adaptation) in diverse biological systems, from molecular pathways to neurons and to populations of organisms. Prof. Nemenman is James S. McDonnell foundation XXI Century Scholar in Complex Systems, a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), and the Past Chair of the Division of Biological Physics of APS.



Prof. Greg Stephens, Biological Physics Theory Unit (Stephens unit)


We look forward to seeing many of you there.



Naoko Ogura-Gayler

Stephens Unit


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